When the Georgia Legislature changed the GPA requirement from 2.0 to 3.0 for HOPE Grant recipients more than 11,000 students were forced out of the state's technical colleges. New figures reported by the Athens Banner-Herald show that more than half have not finished their education or returned to school.
The HOPE grant's minimum GPA was raised as a cost-saving measure in 2011 when the state was looking to patch holes in the budget. The outcome was that 11,471 students attending one of the state's 24 technical colleges were left with no way to pay for school and left.
Of those who remained in school, 3,286 have had their grants renewed and are enrolled this fall in Georgia public technical colleges, system officials have announced. About one in five, or 2,341, who lost the grants last year stayed enrolled and have graduated from their programs.
That leaves 5,844, or 51 percent, who did not graduate and are not enrolled, according to the technical college system's count.
"A lot of people are in need of this financial assistance because they either lost their jobs or could not find better employment," Mike Light, the Georgia technical system's executive director of communications told the Banner-Herald. "The people coming back (after regaining HOPE eligibility) are people who basically had to quit college because they couldn't afford it."
Georgia recently changed the requirement back to 2.0, but that change has apparently not had an immediate impact on the 51 percent of students who left after their grants were taken away.
The system turned out 28,278 graduates in the 2013 academic year, down from a peak of 35,579 in 2011 and the lowest total since at least 2008, according to figures compiled by the technical college system, the paper reported.
During those same two years, HOPE funds flowing into the technical college system declined from $211 million in 2011 to $74.1 million in 2013, partly as a result of changes in HOPE eligibility, partly because of declining enrollment.